HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Lights, camera, action in Hartford. Hollywood is putting Connecticut-famed boxer Willie Pep on the big screen.
News 8’s Bob Wilson was on the set as cameras were rolling and got a look behind the scenes.
This is the sixth movie being shot in Hartford this year and there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of drama as they get ready to roll cameras. The fog machine hung a haze in the air at the Hartford Club. Hollywood is taking you back in time to the 60s when Hartford’s own, Willie Pep, was honored as one of the greatest boxers in the world.
“We don’t know, the guest boos are long and not always legible, but it’s hard to imagine that somebody as famous as Willie Pep didn’t spend some time at the Hartford Club at some point, so when they called to ask if they could use the facility, we couldn’t agree to let them in fast enough,” said Chris Vanderhoef, Hartford Club President.
The idea for the film started 13 years ago. The actor playing Pep, James Madio from Band of Brothers, had a photo of the fighter pinned to a corkboard in his apartment when the producer saw it.
“He looked at the picture and said, ‘that looks like you, who is that? Is that a relative?’ No, that is Willie Pep. So, we googled him right there and we saw everything, all the records that he broke, the fact that he broke his back and neck in a plane crash,” Madio said.
More than a decade in the making, the duo overcame insurmountable odds, including COVID, to get the movie made.
“Doing the research, contacting the family, and then started writing the script and pitching it and pushing and pushing and pushing. That was 2008. If you told me then that it was going to take 13 years, I would’ve probably said no thanks,” said Steve Loff, writer and producer.
It is one of many films being shot in Hartford this year.
“We have had a lot of films filmed in Hartford. We had a bunch of Hallmark movies. The special thing about Willie Pep is that it is set in Hartford, but it is about Hartford,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.
Keep an eye out for Mayor Luke Bronin in the movie who will be making a cameo as he continues to promote Hartford to Hollywood.
“When it comes to a movie being made here in Hartford, we are open to businesses, we are a great, an easy place to do businesses and we hope to see a lot more come through,” Bronin said.